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Cosplaying: Behind the Veil in A Pop Culture World

Published on October 19th, 2016 | Updated on October 21st, 2016 | By FanFest

If you were to look up the definition of ‘Cosplay’ in the dictionary, according to Meriam Webster, it would be defined as the following:

the activity or practice of dressing up as a character from a work of fiction (such as a comic book, video game, or television show)

While the definition of the word is seemingly crystal clear; there is much more behind the art of cosplaying than just running out to the store and finding a costume you like, throwing it on and walking around a convention floor. Every year, hundreds of cosplayers dedicate an enormous amount of man hours to making their cosplay for that next big convention. Some cosplayers dedicate themselves to capturing that perfect cosplay so much, that they have really made their mark on the cosplay world.

In today’s world, I have began growing increasingly saddened by how some cosplayers are treated by society. A lot of people have become fearful or anxious about cosplaying as their favorite character, because they fear being ‘bullied’ by other people. Well, I am here to tell you all… fear not. I take nothing but pure joy at seeing the hard work and dedication of all of the cosplayers out there. Cosplaying is more than just dressing up and running around, it is an opportunity for you to be whoever you want to be… even if that is just for a few hours. I mean, who wouldn’t love to wake up one morning and be someone awesome like supergirl!?

Having been to multiple types of conventions, and wearing dozens of different cosplays myself, I understand the struggle. I understand the paper cuts, the post Worbla burns, the fabric that JUST won’t sit right… and lastly, the last minute wardrobe malfunctions. Though ‘cosplaying’ has been becoming increasingly popular throughout the years, I recently found out that some cosplays date back to as early as the 1930’s. Science fiction fans Forrest J Ackerman and Myrtle R. Douglas attended the 1939 1st World Science Fiction Convention in New York, dressed in “futuristicostumes”, including green cape and breeches, based on the pulp magazine artwork of Frank R. Paul. This moment in time really helped ‘birth’ the world of cosplay.

Sure, people dressed up all the time for masquerades and for holidays such as Halloween; but this was something different. They were cosplaying at an event, just because. Most cosplayers will tell you, if asked, a story as to why they selected to dress up as the character they are cosplaying.

One group in particular that is no stranger to the convention scene is the Cosplay group “DC Cosplayers East”. This group of amazing and dedicated cosplayers make their rounds to as many conventions as possible, and have been the warmest and most welcoming of people I have ever seen. Every convention these people, dressed as DC characters, gather together as if they are one big family and they host these photoshoots; and they are always inviting other cosplayers to jump in on their photo shoots too.

Stephen Amell poses with members of 'DC Cosplayers East'
Stephen Amell poses with members of ‘DC Cosplayers East’

I actually had the opportunity to interview their Group President, Robert Frank, and asked him about how he was able to organize this ever growing group of cosplayers.

“DC Cosplayers East was originally just a photoshoot. I wanted to just do a Justice League and Justice Society photoshoot. I asked people on my friends list and they were a mix of all different fandoms. So I only had two friends that could attend this. Not a good start. So I started looking around where other cosplayers were and asked if they wanted to be on board. I wasn’t getting anywhere with the JLA or JSA side but I did develop a lot of interest from Gotham and villain cosplayers. The day of the shoot was supposed to be private but we seen all these great cosplayers that were interested in joining the shoot so we invited them and even had a whole young justice team join us. Our shoot started out with forty cosplayers but built up to over 100 by the grand finale group shoot. After that I recall my friend Andrew arkham saying we couldn’t just end it from here. So after consulting a few cosplayers I came up with DC Cosplayers East because we represented dc cosplayers not just from my state but from the northeastern seaboard.”

Well, Rob was right. DC Cosplayers East went from having enough members to count on one hand to having celebrities such as Robbie and Stephen Amell jumping in on their photoshoots. Quite an amazing journey, if you ask me! While attending my first Heroes and Villains Fan Fest in San Jose, I met several people who Cosplay’d as The Green Arrow. No surprise there, that is a pretty awesome character in general; and a pretty cool cosplay to wear! I spoke with one of the cosplayers there and he told me that he was a member of a group of cosplayers called ‘Emerald Archers’. So naturally I got curious, looked the group up on FaceBook and I discovered all these characters who had grown a love for cosplaying characters from the Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow universe. I recently spoke with one of the members, John Hall, who resides in England and asked him why he cosplaying was so important to him.

John Hall, Emerald Archers/Team Arrow UK

“Cosplay to me feels another layer to my personality, I cosplay characters such as Green Arrow and Batman, those characters feel a part of me, especially the Arrow. I cosplay with the aims to fulfil my aspirations of looking in the mirror and feeling awesome, I also do it for the smiles I make, those are everlasting and will remain with me forever. Why do I do it? To me it’s like oxygen now, without it I couldn’t breath, it’s vital to me. It’s part of me”

John isn’t the only one who feels this way. If you were to ask any cosplayer today, they would tell you something similar. For starters, cosplaying does not have to be convention specific. You can cosplay anywhere. One of my favorite things that I see all over the internet is the photos of those window washers, handymans or janitors who dress up as superheroes and will go to work at the children’s hospital, like they do everyday… just so that they can see those kids smile. If I were a kid in a hospital and I were to see Spiderman hanging outside my window, or have Sailor Moon walk in my room, it would certainly put a smile on my face and would absolutely make me forget about all my troubles; even if it were for just a second. There is nothing more rewarding in this world, than making a child’s dream come true.

Just ask Nicholas LaVasseur, who is well known and recognized for his cosplay as Thor from the various Marvel films.

Nicholas LaVasseur, Philadelphia Avengers

“Cosplaying is important to me because it allows me to bring characters to life and share them with others. I love seeing children’s eyes light up as they see their favorite heroes standing before them. Also, putting passion into crafting my costume and piecing it together from nothingness to create is deeply fulfilling.”

Nicholas certainly makes an excellent point. It is truly an amazing and inspirational feeling to see a child’s eyes light up when they see their hero standing in front of them. We all have worked on projects before, whether it be for our own personal fulfillment or for a school project that we worked on as a kid. Another group that I want to briefly mention (a very recognizable and respectful group actually) before I wrap this up and head on over to my DVR-D Arrow that is waiting for me, is the 501st Legion. The 501st Legion is a group of members who spend countless man hours into perfecting their Star Wars cosplay. The 501st Legion is, in fact, another international fan-based organization. These cosplayers are incredibly dedicated to the construction and wearing of screen-accurate replicas of Imperial Stormtrooper armor, Sith Lords, Clone Troopers, bounty hunters, and other villains from the Star Wars universe. With hundreds of chapters called ‘Caridas’ all over the world, this group of amazing people travel extensive distances to make those conventions, raise money for charity, or visit those children in the hospital. I spoke with member, Roddie Cooper, and asked him why being a member of the 501st was so important to him.

Roddie Cooper TD-7365 Garrison Carida
Roddie Cooper
Garrison Carida

Why being in the 501st is important to me?

That’s a hard question….initially I joined for the armor, lol.  Ever since I was a little boy I always wanted to be a stormtrooper.  In 2006 I joined the Imperial academy as a cadet, I graduated into the ranks of the 501st in 2008.  Since then I have met so many people with my same passion, with them & this great legion we have made a difference in many people’s lives….from raising thousands of dollars to just being there to make a sick child smile…..But still, I do it for the armor!

So in conclusion, Cosplay is something that can be enjoyed by people of all ages for multiple reasons. It could be because you really love a certain character; and that you feel deeply connected to them. It could be because as a child you were always inspired to be just like them. Or, it could be because even the tiniest smile from a child, who just met their hero, gives you that feeling of fulfillment inside.

If you are considering getting into the art of cosplaying, never set yourself limits to what you can do! I have seen phenomenal cosplays from body painting and just a cape and a mask to a 9-foot tall Hulk Buster made entirely out of worbla and EVA foam. We appreciate all the hard work and efforts that you put into such an amazing hobby. Also, at Heroes and Villains we host our Saturday ‘Heros and Villains’ Cosplay Contest in which you can win some pretty cool stuff! Be sure to check it out! Also, you may never know who you may meet in the Cosplay world. You could meet your new best friend, your next roommate, or a celebrity themself! Remember last year how Mark Ruffalo went undercover at NYCC 2015 dressed in a mask? How cool would that have been to jump in a cosplay photo with him?? Also, hundreds of couples have met through the Cosplaying world, including me and my boyfriend!

Anyone cosplay themselves? If so, tell me about your favorite character to cosplay and why you chose to do them!! If you want to get into the cosplay world, what is your dream cosplay?? Tell me in the comments below!!

Photo Credit: Dreams in Digital Studios
Photo Credit: Paul Ip, Dreams in Digital Studios

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